I thought long and hard about where I would set my first novel. I wanted a location that I knew so I could build the story and characters around familiar surroundings, and my own passion for small communities near inland lakes and rivers suggested my two favourite lakes: Big Rideau Lake along a canal system in eastern Ontario where I spent some time growing up, and Redberry Lake, close to where I now live in Saskatchewan and which has been somewhat of an obsession for over 30 years.
So, Why not choose Redberry Lake? I hear my neighbours asking. Well, one reason is, in fact, my neighbours: there are not enough of them! No matter how many disclaimers are present (like All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental) people in a small community are inclined to recognize themselves or their neighbours, for better or for worse! And with good reason: a storyteller – certainly this one – usually draws heavily on past experience.
There were other, more technical reasons. I wanted a setting with a lakeside community. My home town in Saskatchewan (Hafford) is 10 kilometers away from the lake, and there is no harbour. Also, I wanted the looming presence of a controversial industry located on a substantial waterway. That is not to say that the industrialized agriculture around Redberry Lake isn’t controversial and may not impact the water, but optically it is framed as a peaceful rural area with tractors and cows spread out for miles and miles!
So I looked at Big Rideau Lake as an option: Lakeside community – check; Harbour – check; Substantial waterway – check; Nobody knows me – check. Things that are missing: Familiar surroundings – in deep memory only. Controversial industry – not at all sure.
Hmm. I need to create a community like Portland-on-the-Rideau, but not there. I need to create a lake that is larger than Big Rideau, but more remote. I need to name this lake. Foggy Lake – boring. Hey – Awan is foggy in Ojibwe so there we go: Awan Lake. I need to name the town – I knew a town in Alberta called Spirit River. There isn’t one in Ontario by that name, and that way I also get a name for the river that feeds and drains Awan Lake. Check!
So there you go, I have a place for my characters to live their lives and get involved in mysteries, and I won’t insult anyone. Welcome to Spirit River at Awan Lake, which is now as imprinted on my soul as Portland-on-the-Rideau is, in my fondest memories!
Sunset at 20:47 is the first novel in the Awan Lake series and is available in print through Amazon and as an e-book (cheaper!) pretty well anywhere. Nobody Drowned is book number two and is slated for release in March. You can find more information at www.peterkingsmill.ca